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Another week, another nutrition fad. But is manuka honey really the bee’s knees? All signs point to yes, at least according to dozens of studies and the expertise of Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, CT.
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The golden miracle liquid, harvested only from New Zealand and Australia, may be all the rage for its touted antioxidant and antibacterial properties, but it comes with a hefty price tag. Self-proclaimed (and millionaire) health gurus Gwyneth Paltrow and Kourtney Kardashian unsurprisingly believe it’s worth the buzz, but we chatted with Gorin to give us an honest breakdown of how Manuka honey may benefit the everyday consumer when used both topically and orally to treat some common conditions.
“Manuka honey is a specific type of honey that is a dark monofloral (meaning it comes from the nectar of the flowers of the Manuka tree) with a rich phenolic content [high in antioxidants],” explains Gorin. The honey is particularly special (and rare!) because the Manuka flower only blooms 2-6 weeks per year in New Zealand and small parts of Australia. Farmers must ensure that hives remain undisturbed and isolated as bees turn the flowers’ limited edition nectar into honey during this short period of time. In fact, some hives are so remote and removed to allow that they can only be accessed by helicopter!
“There are many types of honey out there, but only some—including manuka honey—have been heavily researched for the medicinal benefits,” reveals Gorin. Here is a look at the three main categories that have garnered it the most attention:
“Manuka honey offers antioxidant, antibacterial, and even anti-cancer benefits,” says Gorin, citing multiple studies that prove its efficacy. As an oral supplement, this makes it a sweet addition to any diet for potential immunity-boosting results. Simply mix it into tea or yogurt, or spread it on top of a nut butter sandwich as you would with any standard variety of honey.
For topical treatment, you’ll want to consult a dermatologist and conduct a skin allergy test before applying it directly to your body, but Manuka honey has shown success in treating…
“The honey can be particularly useful for wound healing. For this, Manuka honey hydrogels may be used,” says Gorin. “When used as a wound dressing, the honey may help stimulate healing and lessen scarring, according to research. Manuka may also be used in dressings for foot sores in people with diabetes.”
Additionally, Manuka honey has proven to be an effective treatment for acne when used as a mask or in a balm or cream. There are plenty of beauty products that incorporate the ingredient into their blends to ease redness, encourage hydration, and rid the dermis of pore-clogging bacteria that can lead to blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts.
“Chewing a ‘leather’ that’s made from Manuka may reduce plaque and gum bleeding in people with gingivitis,” adds Gorin, though studies among the dental community are still somewhat limited.
You can’t put a price on quality and Manuka honey has proven to be the gold standard. Aside from over-the-top harvesting techniques (remember, it may involve a helicopter!) and geo-specific sourcing, Manuka honey puts other varieties to shame when it comes to its aforementioned health properties. As a result, its price is significantly higher than what you will find in the plastic bottles of adorably adorable bears.
“Manuka honey contains a level of methylglyoxal (MGO) that is particularly high,” says Gorin.”This is what is connected to [its] antibacterial activity, as well as antioxidant and even potentially anti-cancer benefits.
“Compared to non-Manuka honey, Manuka honey contains MGO levels that are 20-fold higher!” she adds, which makes the viscous liquid more pricey.
“When you’re buying Manuka honey, you’ll see that products are often labeled with its MGO content,” says Gorin, who reveals that the higher the number of mg/kg, the better.
“You may also see Manuka honey rated with a system called Unique Manuka Factor (UMF),” she adds. “This shows the equivalent concentration of phenol needed to produce the same antibacterial activity honey has.”
The higher the number, the greater the strength, thus making the product more effective and pure. A product with 10+ UMF should suffice in providing the bare minimum in antibacterial benefits that are unique to Manuka and set it apart from your standard honey.
“It comes from New Zealand’s forests—and the product is a robust honey that’s smooth and thick. It’s great for everything from spreading on top of sliced pears or apples or for adding to smoothies and tea,” says Gorin. ”NOW’s Manuka honey is [also] guaranteed to contain at least 250 mg/kg of MGO.”
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With an added blend of exfoliating charcoal and hydrating Norwegian kelp and red algae, this mask aims to cleanse, purify, and moisturize, making it an ideal part of your nightly regimen if you have combination skin. It’s also priced affordably so you can enjoy the benefits of Manuka honey without breaking the bank.
Promising Review: “This mask is AMAZING! It really helps with acne and makes your skin feel so smooth. It isn’t harsh and I can already tell a difference after only 2 uses. The only complaint I have is that the size of the jar is very small. Wish it was way bigger than what you get. Other than that. I highly recommend.” – Stephanie
$16.75 on Amazon
If you’re not sure where to apply Manuka honey first, opt for a balm that will bring moisture and hydration to your skin’s driest spots. This product is particularly effective on hands, elbows, and heels, but is also great for the neck and chest area.
Promising Review: “A must-have multi-purpose gem! It has a very pleasant light honey scent, absorbs wonderfully, and doesn’t leave any sticky residue. I use it in my eyebrows with a spooly brush to help tame unruly hairs, on my cuticles, knuckles, and anywhere else that needs some added moisture. 10/10.” – Brie
$17.99 on Amazon
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